So finally, after Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and France… I arrive at the beginning (if that makes sense), in Spain. If you remember, my posts about cycling through each of the countries of the Eurovelo 1/3 route that I will be following later in the year were purposefully done in reverse so as to not neglect thinking about the latter parts of the cycle (as I arguably did when preparing to cycle along the Mediterranean coast back in 2013). Many thanks to everyone who has so far commented and offered advice; your thoughts are very much appreciated. You can do so by commenting at the bottom of this post or, if you’d prefer to email, you can do so by contacting me at andrew@cycleingEurope.org.
So, on with the show, or rather, on with cycling in Spain. Here’s a map of the route:
If you look carefully you will see that my cycle from the most southerly point of the European mainland at Tarifa (incidentally, if you believe it isn’t, at this stage I’d rather not know) actually takes in not just two of the Eurovelo routes, but three! Yes, I actually start off by following my old friend the Eurovelo 8 before hooking up with the Eurovelo 1 in Huelva and then joint Eurovelo 1/3 route just north of Palencia. There is an irony here of course. Back in 2013 when I was cycling along a route that was inspired by the Eurovelo 8, I abandoned it in Valencia in order to cut the corner off Spain and be in with a chance of arriving at my destination – Cape St. Vincent in Portugal – before the end of August. But here I will be in the first few days of April coupling up once again with route 8 in order to tick the box of crossing the entire continent south to north.
The Rough Guide (I’ve gone for the physical book version for Spain rather than the eBook as I will be spending the best part of two months in the country – see below) sings the praises of the first section of the route between Tarifa and Cadiz where the villages are home to “some of the best beaches in Spain“. I’m not quite sure whether April is a good month for swimming in the Atlantic Ocean so I’ll keep my options open on that. It should be interesting returning to Cadiz as I will have already spent the month of March in the city learning some Spanish (if this is news to you, you might find it useful to read this).
A little further north at Huelva (not the nicest of towns but at least I know a decent campsite by the beach where I stayed in August 2013) I continue along the route of the Eurovelo 1. Many people have cycled this route as it hugs the coastline of western Europe – see a few links here – but in Spain it does no such thing staying well away from anything damp (apart from the April sky perhaps). According to the European Cyclists’ Federation’s Spain page for the Eurovelo 1, I will be following ‘two ancient routes‘, in the north this is of course the Camino de Santiago but between Seville and Benevente it will be the Ruta Via de la Plata, There’s also a useful link to this official Ruta website which in turn links to this page of cycling itineraries. The first thing that draws my attention is the column of distances. Without doing any calculations, I would have thought that the average of the routes between Seville and Benevente is around 75km, the average distance that I need to be hitting if I am to arrive in northern Norway before the sun starts to disappear and 24 hours of sunlight starts to ebb away. But back to Spain! I’ve just worked it out and the average is a very useful 70.6km. Almost perfect! And the website is practically Swiss in its detail with each stage providing a route profile, a map, GPS tracks should I want them (probably not but it’s good to know they exist) and general overview info about that section of the route. Here is the information it gives, for example, for the first section from Seville to Monesterio:
This is absolutely wonderful news! There’s more information on the Ruta Via de la Plata website that will need to be read when I’m not learning Spanish in Cadiz…
Then it’s a hop over to the Camino de Santiago. I’ve already written about cycling the camino in this post entitled, err… Cycling the Camino de Santiago in the ‘Wrong Direction’. This is some of what I wrote at the time:
“Is the route cyclable? My initial assumptions were that it wasn’t but when I looked at the Eurovelo map of Europe and compared it to the route of the Camino, I was pleased to see that the suggested paths for walkers and cyclists were more or less identical through Leon, Burgos and Pamplona. It was a promising start. Perhaps my main concern should not be with route-finding but with trying to avoid knocking over all the pilgrims travelling on foot and heading in the opposite direction. A quick Internet search comes up with a useful site listing ’50 quirky bike rides’ of which ‘Cycling the Camino de Santiago’ is just one. Written by a chap called Rob Ainsley, it looks as though it is the online support for a book of the same name. There is even a podcast and an accompanying article in the CTC’s Cycle magazine. Give me a few minutes whilst I listen and read… Interesting stuff. I particularly liked the podcast – very professional and engaging, despite the bagpipes (but he does warn you about that a very start…). Some points to ponder; he explains that he completed the route on a mountain bike and looking at some of the pictures accompanying the article, you can see why as the tracks do look a little rough to say the least. That said, in the CTC magazine, he does point out that if he were to do the trip again, he would ‘take a tourer‘ explaining that the route for walkers does follow the road for much of its length and for any parts which are too much of a challenge, the tarmac road option is never far away. A mixture of the two is suggested. As for accommodation, it sounds as though cycling in April is about the perfect time to do so as the crowds in the summer pack out the hostels. Ainsley does mention that some ‘hard line refuges are said to turn away cyclists…’ and I do wonder if they take even greater exception to cyclists who are completing the journey from west to east. Then again, how would they know? The stamps in the map book? Perhaps I shall just not ask for them.”
John Rawlins commented on the original post and there was a follow up discussion on the Cycling Europe on a Bike Called Reggie Facebook page, all relevant and useful.
So there we have it, I have completed my pre-trip planning / thinking (perhaps ‘planning’ is too strong a word) for what lies ahead of me across the European continent. All I need to do now is cycle the route…